We fear speaking our truths because of rejection, judgement, and being misunderstood, but in fact, hiding our truths is far more damaging than speaking them.
Last week I sent out a questionnaire to you, My Fellow Artventurer. I asked about fears and/or challenges that you have surrounding speaking your truth, finding peace within your life, and living with an anxious mind.
I received many different answers to the “finding peace” and “living with an anxious mind questions”, but the question, “when it comes to speaking your truth, what is your greatest fear or challenge,” resulted in one common answer: you’re afraid to speak your truth because of the reaction you’ll receive from others.
This answer came in a few different forms:
“I worry what people will think of me.”
“The truth can hurt others.”
“Being misunderstood by the listener.”
“Judgement and rejection.”
“No one listens.”
“That the other person will get mad/yell at me.”
“Being rejected or not understood."
“The truth—and I—will be received poorly.”
“Being rejected or told I’m not worth it.”
“Rejection and misunderstanding.”
Holy Moly. Quite the common thread. I TOTALLY 100% resonate with these answers as I lived the majority of my life scared to death of what others thought of me. So much so, that I didn’t show my true self, I didn’t state my true needs, and I made decisions based on what I thought “you” wanted me to do (without asking you, of course).
Never-the-less, once again this questionnaire has shown me how alike we are, and that my fears are not unique. It has really made me ponder why is it, exactly, that we fear the reaction of others as much as we do.
I remember when I was a teenager, I was at a restaurant and really wanted to order meatloaf and mashed potatoes, but ordered a burger instead because I was scared of what the other kids at the table would think of my comfort food craving. If I didn’t even order the food I wanted based on fear of judgement, you can imagine what the other decisions in my life were like.
When I was in my late 30s, I decided to start writing this blog about being an artist. If you go back to the beginning, my blogs were about my process in the studio and the projects I was currently working on. Then I began to speak freely about the challenges of living with anxiety, loneliness, insecurities, all of the emotions that I had felt all through my life and squirreled away into a great big hole within, too afraid of what it would mean if I expressed how I really felt inside.
Then I dropped my truth bomb about being an alcoholic and promiscuous teen and what that had done to my emotional and mental health as I grew into a woman. It was that essay that unlocked the power of speaking my truth.
First off, I found out I was not alone. Talk about a shocker. Women from all over the world reached out to me, not only to say that they too felt what I felt, but also to thank me for having the courage to speak up about an uncomfortable topic. They called me strong. They thanked me for offering a way to talk to our children and stop the cycle of girls growing into women who feel that they have nothing to offer men beyond their sex. I now realize that none of us are alone.
Number two, I discovered that speaking my truth gives me confidence, and that makes me want to do it more. My life changed that day I began hearing from my readers. I felt seen, maybe for the first time. And that was not the fault of my loved ones who support me no matter what. They were always there. But I learned that my silence was me hiding, and that’s why I had not been seen before.
Thirdly, I discovered that I had been living dishonestly. You know what the opposite of truth is, right? Yup…a lie. I had to admit that me not speaking my truths was just as damaging as me telling lies. I was scared of the outcome of telling others how I felt, and so I created my truth based on what I thought “you” wanted me to say. The damage that was created within my life by not speaking my truths was hard for me to look at, but existed none-the-less.
Fourth, I realized that what others think and say about me is NONE OF MY DAMN BUSINESS. I mean that. You might be saying, “Of course it’s my business! It’s about me!” and I suppose if others are slandering me to a point that it’s effecting my home life or career, then yes, that is my business. But otherwise, everyone has an opinion and the opinions of others are not here to serve me. My mental health is too important to be stifled by worry about what others think about me.
The fact is the damage that I inflicted upon myself by not speaking my truths, was FAR WORSE than the damage that anyone else’s opinion ever inflicted upon me.
Damn…I wish I had learned that lesson when I was in my teens, or twenties, or earlier in my thirties for that matter. The fact is the damage that I inflicted upon myself by not speaking my truths, was FAR WORSE than the damage that anyone else’s opinion ever inflicted upon me. I was my own bully. I allowed the infinite “what if” scenarios to be the decision makers.
And far worse, I made my decisions based on what I thought you wanted me to do without even asking you, therefore, I decided that I knew what you were thinking! If I think about it, that’s pretty fucking arrogant. I mean, who am I to know what anyone is thinking. What…I’m some omnipotent being who can read minds? No...I thought everyone thought like I did, and I was extremely judgmental.
Funny, huh? I was terrified of the judgements of others, but really it was me that thought I knew everything. And worse, when it blew back in my face, I blamed you for not acting how I thought you would.
*Deep sigh. I’m still learning. Apparently, a lot of us are. I would like to continue talking about the importance of speaking our truths as I can see that many of us live in self-imposed prisons that we have judged and sentenced ourselves to.
I’d like to investigate what allowed me to change this behavior. What was it that made me feel safe to do so? Is there a way for us to learn how before we create damage within our lives that can’t be undone (AKA hitting rock bottom…)?
Let’s try this…for one week, so until my next blog post, let’s all commit to speaking at least one small truth a day. This could be when your partner says, “what do you want to watch tonight?” and you say, “I don’t care,” when in reality you want to watch Legally Blond for the one hundredth time. It could be asking for someone else to make dinner on Wednesday, instead of slogging into the kitchen to make dinner, all the while hiding resentment towards the bottomless mouth holes that are your family. (Come on…we’ve all felt it…)
In the comments below, I want to hear one baby truth bomb that you’ll drop this week.
These examples may seem small, but in my past, I would harbor an incredible amount of anger around these types of daily scenarios. If we can’t learn to communicate our truths in these simple ways, what’s the likelihood we’ll do it when big stuff comes up?
We must start by starting, and so, let’s begin.
My Reclaimed Hearts series is now available on my website. These paintings are all about the healing and strength that I gained by speaking my truth. I have learned that my feelings count, and that I owe it to myself and my loved ones to express it, even when it seems hard. Learn more about these paintings and give yourself a reminder of the importance of speaking our truths by Clicking Here.
The painting at top is from the Reclaimed Hearts series. Diving Heart 8, 6”x6”, acrylic & paper on canvas with a 1.5” gallery wrap profile. $120
I am an artist and writer, living in Talent, Oregon with my husband and daughter. I use creativity to break through anxiety paralysis, I play in the ocean to stay strong and inspired, and I often visit my hometown of New Orleans, where the rhythm of my heartbeat is renewed. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram where I post stuff sometimes. To hear from me more regularly, join me on this crazy, beautiful Artventure.